Fascinating statistics given about the English and Welsh languages by linguist David Crystal at the Gŵyl Lenyddiaeth Dinefwr 2012 / Dinefwr Literature Festival 2012 last weekend.
He talked about his latest book, ‘The Story of English in 100 Words’, which represents the formation of contemporary English and illustrates the development of the language in 100 key words.
Crystal speculates about how a similar exercise in Welsh would look.
Most of us who use English as our main language will have a vocabulary of 50,000 to 60,000 words, he reckons. Even though he is credited with inventing many new words and phrases in English Shakespeare had a vocabulary of around 30,000 words, the King James Bible has 20,000.
Crystal reckons the size of the Welsh language is smaller, mainly because it is a pure language, largely unadulterated by others. While English has been ‘messed up’, or influenced, altered and added to by many other languages over the centuries, Welsh has remained untouched.
So, Crystal wants to know, which are the really key significant words in the Welsh language?
He suggests maybe ‘iaith’ (language), ‘Cymraeg’ (Welsh), ‘hiraeth’ (tough to translate this directly, maybe ‘longing’), cynghanedd (my translator gives ‘harmony’, but some of these words just don’t have easy translations into English).
Interesting exercise for anyone interested in the Welsh language – David Crystal is asking anyone who has suggestions for the Welsh 100 to contact him. You can email him direct from his website: www.davidcrystal.com
Meantime, his English in 100 words brings us the very first recorded word in the language – ‘roe’ , surprisingly; and one of the latest, for all those Twitter addicts – ‘twitteria’.
You can also have ‘blogeria’, so we’ll stop right there!